Saturday, September 30, 2023

the last book I ever read (President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier by C. W. Goodyear, excerpt six)

from President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier by C. W. Goodyear:

Now finally glimpsing New Orleans for himself, however, Garfield was smitten. “The thing that strikes a northern man most forcibly is the wonderful vegetation which abounds everywhere,” he wrote. Ferns sprang from cracks in the pavement, while in the garden of his host (a veteran of the Forty-Second, who had evidently decided Sodom wasn’t so bad) Garfield beheld an unimaginable bounty of fruit and flowers: pear, plum, banana, and fig, alongside honeysuckle, jasmine, and twenty types of rose, all within a single acre of land. Manmade structures also drew his interest—the steam-powered waterwheels heaving water toward nearby Lake Pontchartrain, the “curious” French Quarter buzzing with an equally curious, foreign-sounding people.

Yet the scenery could not distract him from noticing and describing the nastier aspects of local society. “You would naturally think that people ought to be very good who live in such a place,” Garfield hinted to his kids. “But… it is unfortunate the people here are not so beautiful as their trees and flowers.” He was more explicit with Crete; Louisiana’s whites, Garfield wrote, “smile in the morning and commit murder at night.”

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